‘RED-TAGGING IS A THREAT’: SC grants protection to Ilonggo activist

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The Supreme Court has granted a writ of amparo to Siegfred Deduro, a former Bayan Muna representative and Ilonggo activist, who was red-tagged by military officials as being linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda and promulgated on July 3, 2023, was made public on Wednesday, May 8.

In the 39-page decision, the Court condemned the practice of red-tagging, associating individuals and groups with communism or terrorism, as a threat to personal safety and freedom. It recognized the separate opinion of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in the 2015 case of Zarate vs. Aquino III.

“The foregoing accounts of red-tagging depict it as a likely precursor to abduction or extrajudicial killing. Being associated with communists or terrorists makes the red-tagged person a target of vigilantes, paramilitary groups, or even State agents. Thus, it is easy to comprehend how a person may, in certain circumstances, develop or harbor fear that being red-tagged places his or her life or security in peril,” the decision read.

The description of red-tagging in the case effectively gives legal basis to define the term, because Article 8 of the Civil Code provides that “Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines.”

This ruling follows Deduro’s 2020 petition against Philippine Army Major General Eric Vinoya of the 3rd Infantry Division, who identified Deduro as a ranking CPP-NPA member during a Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting.

Additionally, posters and flyers distributed in Iloilo City, along with media broadcasts, red-tagged Deduro, creating a prima facie case that his life, liberty, and security were threatened.

“The Court further stressed that although it is uncertain whether such ‘red-baiting’ threats ripen into actual abduction or killing of supposed ‘reds,’ Deduro should not be expected to ‘await his own abduction, or worse, death, or even that the supposed responsible persons directly admit their role in the threats to [his] life, liberty, or security…’” the decision added.

The Supreme Court also noted the absence of due process in the initial handling of the case by the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 24, which had denied the amparo request without hearing Vinoya’s defense.

The RTC has been ordered to conduct a summary hearing “to ensure that Deduro’s cause of action and [Vinoya’s] defense are fully heard.”

Deduro was also ordered to submit a Supplemental Petition to the RTC to implead the Alliance of Victims of the CPP-NPA-NDF and Western Visayan Alliance of Victims of the CPP-NPA-NDF, which allegedly circulated the posters red-tagging him.

Section 1 of Administrative Matter No. 07-9-12-SC (The Rule on the Writ of Amparo) defines the writ as “remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity,” covering extralegal killings, enforced disappearances, and threats.

Then-Chief Justice Reynato Puno, in whose term the rules for the writ were issued, said in 2007 that the writ would “strip military officials of a pretext not to appear in judicial proceedings by simply issuing denials on cases of disappearances or extrajudicial executions.”

Makabayan-affiliated groups welcomed the ruling, citing its legal recognition of the term red-tagging.

“International experts have warned us, now the Supreme Court finally confirms what we have long known: red-tagging, especially by state elements, is a threat to a person’s life, liberty, and security. It should be stopped and eventually criminalized,” said Kabataan Partylist in their statement.

Anakbayan said that the ruling was “a step towards the attainment of justice for all the lives put in danger and lost,” but recognized that if the government wanted to root out communism, it must address the reasons why movements exist.

“If the government is indeed genuine in its quest to end the local communist insurgency, it should once and for all address the roots of armed struggle. Instead of preying on youth and human rights defenders, it should terminate all unequal relations with foreign imperialist nations, implement genuine agrarian reform, promote national industrialization, uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples to ancestral domain and self-determination, and protect our sovereignty,” they stated.

Deduro’s own group, Bayan Panay, said that they will “remain vigilant and continue the call to stop redtagging and eventually to hold accountable those responsible behind it.”


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